In the Shackles of Anti-Intellectualism
By Rex Venard Bacarra
A passage in the book, ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’, by science fiction writer Walter Miller, echoes resoundingly what ails the Filipinos’ global progression-
“Ignorance is king. Many would not profit by his abdication. Many enrich themselves by means of his dark monarchy. They are his court, and in his name they defraud and govern, enrich themselves and perpetuate their power. Even literacy they fear, for the written word is another channel of communication that might cause their enemies to become united.”
Politicians embrace the vestiges of anti-intellectualism with untruths, masquerading as the poor who grew up with “asin” and “daing” as the staple; as nognogs, foundlings, because to do so is to appeal to the emotion of the masses and not to the intellect.
Bold strokes of anti-intellectualism are rife in our entertainment industry where the portrayal of ad miserecordiam (appeal to pity) is malignant. TV shows feature recurring themes of poverty, kidnapping, half-sisters, evil twin, mistresses, and slapping with a crescendo of shouting matches. Scripts are written with actors in mind, instead of actors auditioning for the characters in scripts. Celebrities loom large, towering over story lines. The viewers’ sense of loyalty to the actors becomes their form of entertainment, negating the fact that artistic endeavors, no matter the medium, should instruct and feed the mind, and TV producers are only too willing to recycle and to give the same trash in intermittence because it is easier, cheaper, and emotionally manipulative.
Alex Ross, writer at the New Yorker, in his critique of pop culture through the eyes of the philosophers of the Frankfurt School – Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, observes the predicament our society is in – “Celebrities are rising to the status of secular gods: publicity stills froze their faces in the manner of religious icons. Pop musicians elicit Dionysian screams as they danced across the altar of the stage. And their aura became, in a sense, even more magical: instead of drawing pilgrims from afar, the pop masterpiece is broadcast outward, to a captive world congregation. It radiates and saturates.”
Laziness and self-interest by those in power are the aggravating factors that have made anti-intellectualism an accepted way of life. This is why we don’t have enough scientists, inventors, philosophers and such, because we are not encouraged to be so, but discouraged even. When we cheer the most and become crazier as a nation because we have more Miss Universe titles, and then become apathetic when one amongst us invents a lamp that runs with just water and salt, then we are still crawling, chasing but the shadows of progression, whimpering behind the coattails of the master.
What needs to be done? The problem is deeply rooted in culture, and only a habitual de-threading of this particular fiber will allow us to gain back what we once had before the dawn of the Marcoses in the 60s. This will entail willpower from the leader and discipline from the ones led. The next President should resist, altogether condemn, political patronage, and Congress itself should put a premium to its educational budget for the intellectualization of the young.
REX VENARD BACARRA
Professor of Philosophy at the American College of Dubai, Rex Venard Bacarra says of himself – “I may be bad in folding a fitted sheet and horrible in parallel parking. But, I am excellent in chewing the maggots of the philosophical universe. Maybe…” True to form, this modern day ‘Filosopo Tasio” shares with us his thoughts on a malady that ails our society today – that of anti-intellectualism.